News | May 26, 2016

History Of The High Speed Camera

Source: Vision Research, Inc.
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History Of The High Speed Camera

High speed photography is a modern marvel that has solved countless scientific mysteries, advanced medicine, produced wonderful art, and revealed the inner workings of things like cells and even machines.

We take it for granted now, but high speed photography is a very recent invention. In order to fully understand it in all of its marvels, it is necessary to take a step back in time to find out from where it came:

The first practical application of high-speed photography was by Eadweard Muybridge, who investigated whether horses feet really actually all left the ground during a gallop. In 1878, he found out that they did. Other significant experiments from that period included the first picture of a supersonic bullet, taken by Austrian physicist Peter Salcher in 1886.

In the early 1930s, Bell Telephone Laboratories was one of the first customers of the high speed camera, developed by Eastman Kodak, and the company used the system, which ran 16 mm film at 1000 frames and had a 100-foot (30 m) load capacity, to study the effects of relay bounce.

The Eastman Kodak Company captured 90% of market share in terms of sales of photographic films in the United States. Kodak declined to develop a higher-speed version of the camera, so Bell Labs came up with one themselves, and called it the Fastax. The camera was capable of 5,000 frames. Eventually, the design was sold to Wollensak Optical Company, which improved upon the design. Now, it's capable of achieving 10,000 frames.

In 1940, a patent was filed by Cearcy D. Miller. His rotating mirror camera was theoretically capable of 1 million frames per second. Indeed, the camera's first application was during the infamous Manhattan Project, in which Berlin Brixner used a rotating mirror camera to photograph early prototypes of the first nuclear bomb.

Harold Edgerton is generally accepted as the father of modern, high speed photography, with the use of the stroboscope to freeze fast motion. Advancing the concept of the stroboscope, researchers started using lasers to stop high speed motion.

It is amazing to think of the technological lengths photography has come -- from Kodak's 1,000 frame camera to today's ultra High Speed cameras -- exceeding 100,000 frames per second by far -- which are typically used for laboratory research. Indeed, depending on the optical system used, high frame rate cameras and high speed cameras, and even slow motion cameras, can possibly improve vision research and engineering fields.


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